Cubs

Cardinals close gap in NL Central, acquire six-time All-Star Paul Goldschmidt from Diamondbacks

Cardinals close gap in NL Central, acquire six-time All-Star Paul Goldschmidt from Diamondbacks

The Cardinals have not made the postseason since their 100-win season in 2015. Wednesday, they made a huge splash to close the gap between themselves, the Brewers and Cubs.

St. Louis acquired six-time All-Star and notorious Cubs killer Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks. In return for Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks acquired Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, Andrew Young and a 2019 draft pick.

Goldschmidt, 31, is a career .297 hitter with a .930 OPS. He has hit at least 20 home runs in six of his eight career seasons and has hit at least 30 home runs four times. While he has not won the MVP Award, Goldschmidt has finished in the top-three in voting three times —  2013, 2015 and 2017. 

Goldschmidt is also a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2013, 2015, 2017) and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner (2013, 2015, 2017-18). With all due respect to Freddie Freeman, the Cardinals acquisition of Goldschmidt puts three of baseball's best first basemen — with Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto — in the NL Central Divison.

The Cardinals drafted Kelly, 24, in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He has hit just .154 in 63 career MLB games, though the sample size (117 at-bats) is too small to make any declarations about his future. 

Kelly won an MiLB Gold Glove with Single-A Palm Beach in 2015, but he was blocked on the Cardinals' depth chart by nine-time Gold Glove Award winner Yadier Molina. 

The 36-year-old Molina is only signed through 2020, but the Cardinals have more catching depth in the minor leagues. Catcher Andrew Knizner, 23, is St. Louis' No. 5 prospect, according to MLB.com, and is projected to make his MLB debut in 2019.

Weaver, 25, is a starting pitcher who was the Cardinals' first round draft pick in 2014. Since making his MLB debut in 2016, he has appeared in 52 games (43 starts), holding a career 4.79 ERA. However, his ERA jumped from 3.88 in 2017 (13 games/10 starts) to 4.95 in 2018 (30 games/25 starts).

Young, 24, has yet to make his big league debut since the Cardinals drafted him in the 37th round in 2016. The second baseman is a career .281 hitter in 289 minor league games.

While Goldschmidt's accolades are all impressive, what he has done against the Cubs and Brewers surely will cause headaches for the two teams and their fans.

In 43 career games against the Cubs, Goldschmidt holds a .353 batting average, 1.170 OPS and has hit 14 home runs, 39 RBIs. He has wrecked an equal amount of havoc on the Brewers, hitting .366 with a 1.130 OPS, 10 home runs and 32 RBIs. 

Interestingly enough, Goldschmidt's career numbers in those categories against the Cardinals are all lower than they are against the Cubs and Brewers, respectively. 

While one player does not necessarily swing the power in the division, it surely closes the talent gap. The Cardinals won 88 games without Goldschmidt and his 5.1 fWAR in 2018; adding him will certainly improve their offense, which tied for 10th in baseball in runs scored (759) and home runs (205) in 2018.

Overall, you'd think that Goldschmidt would have one of MLB's most lucrative contracts based on his accolades. But like Rizzo, he has one of the most team-friendly deals for a player of his magnitude.

Goldschmidt signed a five-year, $32 million contract with the Diamondbacks in March 2013. He will make just $14.5 million in 2019 before hitting free agency next offseason, meaning the Cardinals gave up two valuable, young assets in Kelly and Weaver for possibly just one year of control of Goldschmidt.

This is not to say that the Cardinals cannot or will not re-sign Goldschmidt before he hits free agency. However, it's clear that they are going all in on the 2019 season by acquiring a known-commodity in him.

In no ways is that meant to be a slight against Weaver or Kelly. Both players could very well could turn into two great MLB players, of course. 

After failing to make the playoffs in three-consecutive seasons, though, the Cardinals had to make some sort of move. What better move to make than getting arguably the best first baseman in baseball?

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When Cubs top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay makes it to the majors, he'll already be one step ahead

When Cubs top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay makes it to the majors, he'll already be one step ahead

MESA, Ariz. — Adbert Alzolay hasn't made it to "The Show" just yet, but he's going to be awfully prepared by the time he gets there.

The Cubs' top pitching prospect missed much of last season with a lat injury, shut down after May 29 and managing only 39.2 innings.

Alzolay obviously couldn't throw while he was recovering from the injury, but that didn't stop his development. 

The 23-year-old right-hander was still getting ready for the big leagues — watching video on a bunch of major-league hitters, mainly the guys in the National League Central that the Cubs face most often.

"The first couple weeks [after the injury], it was kinda hard at first, just being here in Arizona [away from most everybody else]," Alzolay said. "But after that, my focus was just getting back to the field to be healthy again. I spent the whole offseason watching video for the teams that we play against in the big leagues. I just watched all those hitters, what they hit in different counts.

"I've been learning a lot. Different types of counts, the pitches and all that I can throw against those hitters in different situations."

The idea came about initially from coaches, but Alzolay took to it immediately, finding a passion in readying himself for the majors even if he couldn't physically get out on a mound.

The lat is fully healthy, though he's currently working through another injury — a slight back tweak after slipping during a bullpen session the week before pitchers and catchers officially reported to Cubs spring training. 

Alzolay said his back is "perfect now, back to normal" and he will throw from flat ground next week before getting back on a mound. In the mean time, he's trying to soak up all he can while talking to big leaguers like Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Willson Contreras.

Alzolay and Contreras are close — both Venezuelan natives during an increasingly difficult time for their home country. The Cubs catcher gave Alzolay one of the Venezuelan flag arm sleeves last spring, which the young pitcher wore proudly in camp a year ago and would considering wearing again if the leagues allow him to.

But first, he's just focused on trying to get to the big leagues.

Like all prospects, Alzolay spends a lot of time daydreaming about what it would be like in Chicago, pitching at a sold-out Wrigley Field. And he has plenty of reason to dream, as he was on the cusp of the majors last summer before he went down to injury. He's also willing to start or relieve, which should improve his chances on getting the call.

He'll have an innings limit this year and the Cubs will be cautious with their prized arm, but the big-league bullpen is filled with plenty of question marks and thus an opening for Alzolay should arrive at some point.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with Kyle Hendricks

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with Kyle Hendricks

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki discuss the impact a full season of Cole Hamels could have on the rotation and the team. And David Kaplan goes 1-on-1 with Kyle Hendricks. Find out which teammate Hendricks says most enjoys striking out in Spring Training.

00:35 - Tony and Kelly break down the potential impact that Cole Hamels can have on the 2019 club. They discuss Hamels' value as a teammate and a leader, his approach to baseball every day, and what the Cubs expect from him every fifth day.

16:56 - Kap goes 1-on-1 with Kyle Hendricks during a walk around a practice diamond at the Cubs facilities in Mesa. Hendricks discusses his excitement for 2019, how he approaches the buildup to the regular season, and how much fun he has facing teammates during spring training.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: